Portuguese Tennis Umpire Receives Lifetime Ban over Match-Fixing

A tennis umpire from Portugal will no longer be able to referee contests. The International Tennis Integrity Agency gave Daniel Zeferino a lifetime ban after he pleaded guilty to rigging games.

Daniel Zeferino
Daniel Zeferino
Daniel Zeferino, ready to umpire a tennis match. He won’t anymore, though, as his decision to fix matches brought his career to an end. (Image: InsideTheGames)

Daniel Zeferino had a fairly cushy job that many tennis fans would die to have. He sat at mid-court and officiated tennis tournaments, watching the action unfold, and in theory, keeping proper track of scores and faults.

However, Zeferino apparently wanted more. The Portuguese umpire used his position to fix games, but his side hustle was his demise. The International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) just hit him with a lifetime ban for match-fixing at the International Tennis Federation (ITF) M15 event two years ago.

For a Fistful of Dollars

Before his world came crashing down, Zeferino was a Level 2 White Badge ITF official. This is the second level in the organization’s three-level system, and is only one step away from being able to officiate tennis internationally.

However, in 2020, he made a decision that took his career in a new direction, one that could only lead to a dead end. He manipulated scores during a game, changing them as he recorded them in an ITF-approved digital scoring device. This produced “guaranteed wins” by bettors on the points he altered.

It didn’t take long for the ITF to uncover his actions, and it reported him to the ITIA. Zeferino admitted his negligence during an interview with the integrity body. As a result, the umpire was found guilty of violating two sections of the Tennis Anti-Corruption Program.

The first section he violated covers the prevention of any activity that might induce wagering on the outcome of a match. The second defines the act of rigging a tennis match to skew the outcome. Zeferino never contested the facts of his illegal actions or the outcome.

More Tennis Match-Fixing Uncovered

The ITIA has been busy lately. In addition to Zeferino, it has had to determine what to do with a handful of Spanish tennis players who rigged the outcome of games. The organization made that determination last week.

Six Spanish tennis players who received criminal convictions for participating in “one of the biggest plots” of match-fixing have been disqualified from playing or participating in the sport for periods ranging between seven and 22 years.

The biggest punishment has fallen on Marc Fornell, who had an ATP rating of 236. In addition, the list includes Jorge Marsé (with an ATP rating of 562) and the unclassified Carlos Ortega, Jaime Ortega, Marcos Torralbo, and Pedro Bernabé Franco.

While we are not pleased to see six individuals receiving criminal convictions and disqualifications, the message is clear: match-fixing can lead to a jail sentence and can end tennis careers,” stated ITIA President Jennie Price.

All of the players pleaded guilty to corruption charges in Spain, which led to criminal convictions. However, they all received suspended sentences of two years.

After the criminal case concluded, the ITIA was able to step in and hand out its penalties. Fornell received a 22-year, 6-month disqualification, and a fine of $250,000. some $200,000 of that was suspended.

Marsé received a 15-year suspension and a fine of $15,000,with $5,000 of it suspended. The others each received a suspension of 15 years from tennis and varying degrees of monetary fines that ranged from $100,000 to $140,000.

The criminal case is not over yet. The original complaint included 14 names, and might involve international organized crime. An investigation continues to determine the extent of the match-fixing.

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